View Full Version : Newer than new!

01-09-2004, 01:49 PM
My fantastic, thoughtful, generous, wonderful wife, who happens to be reading over my shoulder right now, gave me mead making equipment for chirstmas. I have wanted to try making mead and have a few books on the subject, but have no experience yet!
My FIRST question (I am sure there will be more!) is:
I have a 7.5 gallon primary firmenter and a 6.5 gallon carboy. I got liquid mead yeast, which says "for 5 gallons" on the tube. So, can I make a five gallon batch of mead in a 6.5 gallon carboy? Or should I increase the recipe to 6.5 gallons, but be short on the yeast? Or should I use some marbles to displace 1.5 gallons of solution in the bottom of the carboy?

Any help will be appreciated! (Since, clearly, I have NO idea what I am doing! ??? )

01-09-2004, 04:39 PM
lol, that is an awesome idea... marbles in the bottom of the primary. But it isn't necessary. Especially for primary fermentation. There will be enough CO2 production that you don't need to worry about room in the top.

You will want the extra room in the carboy since you might get a signifigant amount of foam when you rack -- based on the age and the ingredients. When you stir up the yeast they get excited plus you have a lot of CO2 in solution that will be released when you rack.

So, you should be fine to do a 5 gallon batch. Now, if you want to make a larger batch... you can use the yeast you have. It should have instructions to make a good starter... just make a good strong starter and pitch that. The yeast aren't going to freak out if they have more room to expand. It just might take another hour or so before they really get underway. If you do make the 6.5 gallon AERATE a lot... get a lot of oxygen in the must because it helps the yeast multiply at first -- you don't want it later but at the start you do.

Play with the marbles but you don't need them in the must either way.

I just got started a little while ago so I can sympathize with the questions. Don't worry and ask all you want... this board is too slow anyway. I know I will love to hear them.

01-09-2004, 08:54 PM
"AERATE a lot"
Ok, now this is where I am also confused! I will be using an airlock to keep out "bad bacteria and wild yeast" but I am supposed to aerate?!
You rack to minimize air contact with the must, right? Understand my confusion?! LOL
Thanks in advance for your patience!

01-09-2004, 09:11 PM
I start every single one of my 5 gallon batches in 6.5 gallon carboys and sometimes i STILL have foam comming out of the top! if you were to put 6.5 gallons of mead into a 6.5 gallon carboy, withing a few days it would be exploding out of the airlock leaving you with a stickey mess. you always need lots of extra room in your primary fermentation for things to foam up and go crazy, as they usually do for the first week or so. i would suggest sticking with the 5 gallon batch. Even if you decide not to do so, the tube of yeast you have will be fine for 6.5 gallons. As Eric said, you could easily make a starter the day before you plan on brewing, in fact this is ALWAYS a good idea as it gives you a rapid fermentation that wards off any contamination, however, a starter is by no means required (esecially when using liquid cultures). As far as using marbles, alot of people talk about that method but i have never actually heard of anyone DOING it. it sounds like it would be a good idea at first but think about the logistics of it...think about how many marbles you would need to displace 1.5 or even 2-2.5 gallons of volume (you always lose volume when racking from primary to secondary). then think about how much unnecessary volume loss you would have when you try to rack OFF of the marbles. It also seems like a good way to introduce contamination. IMHO i think you should try to keep things real simple for your first few batches, just get into the swing of the mead making processes, you can always experiment and change things later. If you stick to the basics, good sanitation practices (always your #1 concern), and good ingredients, you are bound to be happy with your results!

01-09-2004, 09:18 PM
when you initially pitch your yeast into your must and put the airlock on you should roll the carboy/bucket around a bit on its base in a way that aggitates the must, you are not incorporating outside air just air from inside the fermentation vessle that is in contact with your mead anyway. this incorporates oxygen into the must and allows for a faster initial fermentation, again protecting against any contamination that might have snuck it. after this initial airation you should NEVER airate your must again, you should be carful during racking especially to splash around as little as possible. this again is an excellent tip but is by no means necessary.

01-09-2004, 09:23 PM
At the start you want lots of oxygen in the liquid. If you heat the must you will force all this out. The oxygen is needed because of the way yeast work. Let me explain.

Yeast multiply in two ways aerobic -- with air -- and anaerobic -- without air, excusing my poor spelling. The first method is faster and more efficient for the yeast cells. The second is a survival mechanism, and actually is the way that alcohol is produced. See, without oxygen in the liquid yeast cells will canabalize sugar C6H12O6 for the oxygen it contains... it will produce CO2 and Alcohol as a result. This is the equation chemically even though I know it is pointless: C6H12O6 ---> 2C2H5OH + 2CO2.

So, what does that mean? Well, first off we can see why yeast work faster in an oxygenated environment... they don't need to manufacture their air. At the start we want this because we want our yeast to take over the must as quickly as possible to stop contamination from other nasty beasties. But we don't want oxygen all the time... since the yeast would never bother to produce alcohol like that. So we seal them off. After we do this we must be careful NOT to introduce oxygen. This is because air usually has a bacteria that will produce vinegar. There is nothing to worry about at first because the yeast will destroy this bacteria when they take over the must and the bacteria have no alcohol to turn into vingear at that time. But once there is alcohol the bacteria will have a better home and something to feed off of. So, we need to keep air away from our must once alcohol has been produced. Also, the yeast will not be able to effectively fight off the bacteria because 1) they have slowed down in the anaerobic environment and 2) the bacteria has a plentiful supply of food (alcohol).

Okay, also. You don't rack to minimize air contact... the way you rack you should take care to minimize air contact. This is because you don't want the bad bacteria to get into a nice alcoholic home. The reason you rack in the first place is because it gets the mead off the lees (the yeast sludge at the bottom). This keeps the live yeast from eating the dormant yeast for food -- this will produce off tastes. There might be other benefits but I am pretty sure that is the main one. If the goal was to minimize air contact at all costs you would not rack. If you have a good airlock and the container is airtight, then air will not get in. Messing with it by racking would only introduce the possibility where it didn't exist.

I hope that this long confusing mess helped explain it a little. Oxygen at the start = good, after that = bad. ;-)

01-10-2004, 01:07 PM
Thanks for all of the information!
Just to be clear, I will be using a 7.5 gallon "bucket" as the primary, so the carboy questions were for the secondary firmentation, which I believe will not be quite as active! So, I think I will get started next weekend! I'm sure I'll come up with more questions soon!

01-10-2004, 01:34 PM
sorry i guess i misunderstood your original post a little. you are correct that there is little activity in secondary, and you are also correct in that a 6.5 gallon carboy would be ideal for secondary of a 6.5 gallon batch (which is why i primary my 5 gallon batches in a 6.5 and secondary in a 5), however, you may run into the problem of too little headspace if you put a 6.5 gallon batch into a 7.5 gallon bucket. if you are not adverse to the idea of losing some mead out of your airlock (which by the way can happen rather violently) then by all means do a 6.5 gallon brew. although at this stage i wouldnt worry about putting a 5 gallon batch in a 6.5 carboy for secondary. its not a perfect situation but you can alwyas invest the $15 in a 5 gallon carboy later and not have to worry about messing with marbles ;D

01-16-2004, 02:15 AM
Make a 6.5 gallon batch or a 7 gallon batch in your primary. the 5 gallon yeast packet will be fine, if your worried make a 1 gallon starter first.
Rack off into the carboy after krausen(foam) goes away in 10-14 days. If your primary bucket doesn't have a lid use disposable shower caps (walmart sells them).

When you later rack your 6.5 gallon secondary, sanitized marbles are a good way to control head space if you don't want to add water. ( i make extra 1/2 gallon of must and set up in a 1/2 gallon Apple juice Carboy secondary for topping off, I also have 6 gallon carboys if i need to step down a size.) if you use marble prop up one side of carboy 1/2 inch or so I use an empty perscription bottle. this keeps marbles on on a side and prevent thier rolling when carboy needs tilting to rack later... beware of less stable positions in the presence of pets/kids who might bump the carboy/shelves.
I always start with 7 gallons to bottle 6+ after racking and sampling losses.